Natural Gas’s Ecological Consequences

There are a lot of specialties that cause global warming,

Fossil fuel like coal or oil is called natural gas, but its global warming emissions are much lower than coal or oil when burned. Natural gas casts 50 to 60 percent less CO2 when it is burned in a new, efficient natural gas power plant than when it is burned in a typical new coal plant. Natural gas also emits 15% to 20% less heat-trapping gasses than gasoline when burned in today’s regular cars.

On the other hand, Smokestacks and tailpipes don’t tell the whole story because they don’t show everything. Methane, the central part of natural gas, leaks out when natural gas is drilled and extracted from wells and transported in pipelines. Methane is 34 times more suitable than CO2 at trapping heat over 100 years and 86 times more effective over 20 years.

According to preliminary studies and field measurements, these “fugitive” methane emissions range from 1% to 9% of the total emissions during the life cycle. Natural gas or coal and oil may have lower life cycle greenhouse gas emissions depending on how much methane leaks, how quickly it converts to electricity and other factors.

A new study says that if you want natural gas power plants to include lower life cycle emissions than new coal plants over short periods of 20 years or less, you need to keep methane losses below 3.2%. If you use natural gas in your car, you need to keep methane losses to less than 1% and 1.6 %, compared to diesel fuel and gasoline, respectively. There are ways to cut down on methane leaking, but it would take new policies and money to use them.

A lot of pollution is coming into the air

Cleaner than other fossil fuels, natural gas doesn’t produce a lot of sulfur, mercury, or other pollutants when it’s burned. Burning natural gas does make nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are precursors to smog, but at a much lower level than when gasoline and diesel are used in cars. Every 10,000 U.S. homes that use natural gas instead of coal emit less NOx, SO2, and particulates each year, according to the DOE.

Asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, and heart disease are some illnesses that these pollutants have been linked to in hundreds of thousands of people across the country. However, even though unconventional gas development can positively affect local and regional air quality, this can still happen. Particulate matter and ozone and its precursors are two air pollutants that the EPA regulates because they can harm people and the environment.

Some areas where drilling is taking place have seen an increase in the concentrations of these pollutants. Exposure to high levels of these air pollutants can have adverse health effects, such as respiratory symptoms, heart disease, and cancer. Those who live near unconventional gas well sites are more likely to get sick from air pollution from natural gas development than those who live far away.

Use of land and wildlife

Oil and gas drilling can change how land is used and harm local ecosystems by causing erosion and cutting down wildlife habitats and migration routes. Construction can cause dirt, minerals, and other harmful pollutants to wash into nearby streams when oil and gas operators clear land for a good pad.

In Michigan, a study of hydraulic fracturing found that environmental effects could be “significant.” These could include more erosion and sedimentation, more risk of aquatic contamination from chemical spills or equipment runoff, habitat fragmentation, and less surface water because groundwater levels have dropped.

Pollution is two things that happen when people use water

In some cases, the chemicals used to drill the wellbore, hydraulically fracture it, process and refine the oil or gas, or dispose of the wastewater could result in drinking water sources near the wells.

Natural radioactive materials, methane, and other underground gasses have sometimes leaked into drinking water supplies from poorly sealed wells. Methane isn’t linked to immediate health effects, but it could be flammable in large amounts. Using a lot of water for unconventional oil and gas development also raises concerns about how much water there is in certain places in places.


In the past, groundwater near oil and gas wells is polluted with fracking fluids and glasses, such as methane and volatile organic compounds, that come from the wells. People who build wells that aren’t properly made or that don’t work well can let gas leak out of the well into the groundwater. The contamination has been found in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

This isn’t the only way that groundwater could become contaminated. Natural or artificial fractures in the ground could allow stray gas to move between an oil and gas formation and groundwater supplies.

In addition to gasses, hydraulic fracturing fluid can get into the groundwater and make it dirty. Groundwater was contaminated because of leaks and spills of fracturing fluid on the surface. Fracturing fluid can also move through abandoned wells, around wells that haven’t been properly sealed or built, through induced fractures, or through failed wastewater pit liners, as well.

There is surface water

Surface waters can be contaminated by spills and leaks of chemical additives, diesel, or other fluids from the equipment on-site, leaks of wastewater from facilities for storage, treatment, and disposal, and spills and leaks of diesel or additional fluids equipment on the site. Surface water contamination risks are more likely to be caused by how land is managed and how chemicals and waste are handled on-site.

The EPA has found more than 1,000 chemical additives used in hydraulic fracturing. These include acids, bactericides, scale removers, friction-reducing agents, and more. It only takes about a dozen chemicals to make a healthy work. The choice of which chemicals to use depends on the geology and needs of the well where the well is. Each well is trucked with many chemical additives, which are stored on a good pad so that they can be used.

In some cases, the chemicals could leak or spill out of faulty storage containers or while they are being moved. Drilling dirt, diesel, and other fluids can also spread to the surface when drilled. Water that flows back or is produced can leak and spill if it isn’t correctly managed. There is also a risk to surface water from people deliberately dumping wastewater in a way that harms the environment.


People are becoming increasingly interested in hydraulic fracturing, which uses a lot of water to break up the rock. This could strain the local ground and surface water supplies, especially in areas already low on water. For example, the amount of water used for hydraulic fracturing a well can be different because of the type of hydraulic fracturing process used.

The EPA says that 70 billion to 140 billion gallons of water were used in 2011 to fracture about 35,000 wells. Most of the water utilized for unconventional oil and gas products can’t be used again. This is different from other energy-related water withdrawals, usually returned to rivers and lakes.

This is based on the type of well and how deep and where it is. For example, a single well with horizontal drilling can use up to 12 million gallons of water when it is first fractured. This is often as much water as is used in traditional vertical wells. Each time a well is “worked over” or has more fracturing done later in its life, the exact vast amounts of water are needed to keep the healthy pressure and gas production up.

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